As many of you know, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has announced that KBOO’s funding will be cut off unless we raise an additional $200,000 per year. This will impact $129,000 in grant funding and significant payments for music licensing. This comes at a time of predicted budget shortfalls for the station. It will hurt! The good news is that this situation, if handled well, can lead KBOO to become more engaged with our community and provide improved service while meeting our mission.
I asked for input from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. The NFCB will do a complete station assessment in May, but here’s a quick take on our situation that Carol Pierson was kind enough to offer. Please see “Programming, Fundraising and CPB, Part Two
” for my response to the situation.
I spoke to…CPB when I was there last week. Although they didn’t rule a waiver out completely, they suggested that they would want to see a major programming change that conformed to traditional “rules of radio listening.” By that I think they would be talking about a single format—at least during the 6am to 6pm hours. They were both sympathetic but will be dealing with a number of stations that aren’t meeting the criteria and need a defensible justification for any waiver that they give.
I still think that the most immediate way to try to stay in the program is to really expand your development efforts. Solicit lapsed donors, send out appeals for additional gifts. Launch a CPB funding challenge if you can think of a good way to position it. Expand your underwriting. Try to find a few “angels” who will give $50,000 each. Most Community and Public Radio stations could be getting more money out of each donor and lapsed members can be a gold mine if you haven’t been regularly contacting them.
In the long run, improved programming and scheduling are what will allow you to increase your audience and their loyalty—the two factors most closely correlated to membership. Although listening to commercial radio has been declining for a number of years, listening to public radio (including community radio) has been growing. The last couple of years have been somewhat flat it has been jumped up again in the latest book. Declining listenership is almost certainly because of programming transitions that drive listeners to other stations or the quality of some of the programs.
From what you tell me, KBOO is losing listeners and members faster than other stations. I think you can fix this. The programming changes have the strongest long term affect but the fundraising changes can turn around more quickly. Based on the numbers that you sent, your underwriting advertising line seems much lower than most community stations. Your average $/member/year is not bad although for many stations it is more like $120.
Let me know how I can help. We look forward to doing an overall assessment in next year where we can get into much more detail.
It’s important to note that NFCB is friendly to our cause! It is the leading representative of community radio; the President and Vice President come from KQED and KPFA respectively; and it was an NFCB station assessment that created my job as Membership Director nine years ago, a position that paid for itself many times over.
Arthur W. Davis